Ting Mong Scarecrows in Cambodia

Cambodia rural home with Ting Mong Scarecrow in front.

Rural Cambodian home with Ting Mong scarecrow out front.

Could hot, humid weather, a low elderly population, mostly rural population and no mass transit system have contributed to the low Covid-19 infection rate in Cambodia? Or is there something else at play here? Something from beyond?

In the first half of January I knew Covid-19 was going to adversely affect my bicycle ride around the world. After Australia I was going to head to northern China, Mongolia and beyond. I knew that wasn’t going to happen before I left Australia. The weather wouldn’t be optimal for riding before April so I headed to Chiang Mai, Thailand. From there I rode to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I planned to spend a few weeks to deal with getting a new passport and planning the months ahead. I had no idea this novel virus would turn my time in Siem Reap from weeks to months.

Although infections were low to begin with Cambodia put into place a number of actions to curb the spread. Schools were closed, large gatherings were discouraged, museums and cinemas were closed. The much anticipated four day Khmer New Year celebration was called off. It can always be debated whether these actions contributed to the low numbers or not. As of the June 8, 2020 the official number of people who have contracted Covid-19 stood at 125 with no reported deaths.

Four years ago I noticed some scarecrow-like effigies pinned to wooden fences along the road in some rural villages. I asked around a bit but I was never able to find out why they were there. When Covid-19 reared its ugly head I noticed more and more of these scarecrows popping up all around the villages surrounding Siem Reap.

Typical rural Cambodian wooden home with Ting Mong scarecrow

Typical rural Cambodian wooden home with Ting Mong scarecrow

During times of disease and death the Khmer people reach back into their rich history looking for a way to protect their homes and families. Superstitions fuel their desire for good health and safety and they find solace in these homemade scarecrows – or Ting Mong.

In the United States scarecrows are meant to scare off birds from destroying crops. In Cambodia Ting Mong are there to scare off evil spirits, ghosts and disease. These human-like figures are sometimes equipped with ‘weapons’ meant to further scare the evil spirits away. Human clothes and human features are meant to fool the evil into thinking the home is being protected by a human.

Whether or not the Ting Mong had a positive effect on the Covid-19 outbreak the numbers of people infected remain low. The overall effect of the worldwide pandemic on local tourism has been devastating with restaurants, hotels and guesthouses permanently closing in numbers never before seen. In April, 2020 Angkor Wat Archeological Park brought in $29,378 compared to $7 million just a year before.

It makes one wonder if some strategically placed Ting Mong amongst the temples and along Pub Street could have made a difference.

10,000 Miles!!

10,000 Miles!!

After starting my ride in Bangkok about sixteen months ago I have reached another major mileage milestone. Ten thousand miles!!

My ride has taken me through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. I hit the ten-thousand mile mark near Kathmandu, Nepal.

In anticipation I asked friends, family and followers on social media to send me questions they have about my ride. On this post I will answer those questions. Read More

I Decided to Stay in Bangladesh

My first room in Bangladesh.

After the events of last night I fully expected a night full of tossing and turning. I thought every noise would wake me from a sleep that was in reality just a disguised form of consciousness. But I was wrong. I had a restful full nights sleep. I can probably attribute that to the emotional drain of the evens just hours before.

My decision was made before I fell asleep. I’m heading back to India.

If the police are so concerned about my safety then how can I not be equally concerned? I am not sure who is who or what the new day will bring. But I am sure that I don’t want to live in constant wonder of what evil may lurk here.

There were two deadbolts on the door. Not strong deadbolts that would instill a sense of safety but deadbolts that could be bypassed with a swift kick from a five year old. The outside of the door has a stronger lock to be used when I am gone from the room.

In the back of my mind the thoughts that I am actually a prisoner still lingers. I am in my ‘cell’ and the outside world swirling with the unknown is just beyond that door. I get ready to get some breakfast. Sliding the wanna-be deadbolt at the bottom of the door and then the one at the top I push the door and instantly feel resistance.

It won’t open. Read More

Bangladesh. Did I Make A Serious Mistake?

India Tea Fields

I left my hotel in Falakata, India in anticipation of making it into country number seven on my ride around the world. The roads in West Bengal are as good as any I have seen in the past year. This area of India is green – full of jungle and rice fields brought out by the start of the rainy season. 

I opted for the small roads through the villages for the first half of the day. This would leave me with the second half riding along smooth asphalt with little traffic. This was an absolutely perfect day to ride.

There were no signs directing me to the border but the lineup of trucks is usually a good clue. When I finally made it to India immigrations I knew I was in the right place. A man directed me to the right building – not much more than a shack – where I was told I couldn’t cross without an actual visa. Everything I have read and all the people I have talked to said a visa on arrival was available. But I was being told no by the India immigration people. 

The GPS path of my wandering at immigration.

I was taken to the customs office where a number of people were trying to help. Phone calls were being made and officers were asking and responding to all sorts of questions. It was such a flurry I had no idea who was who. My passport passed through more hands in an hour than it has in the past year! Read More

Why Am I Here And Not There?

Mountains along the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand

It seems that border towns are funnels for bicycle tourists. More often than not I meet multiple long distance riders at or near borders. When I was near the Thailand/Myanmar border I ran into a number of long distance bicyclists.

We always have the same conversations: where are you from, where are you going, how long, how far. I started noticing a pattern from the cyclists that have come to Southeast Asia from Europe.

Vietnamese boy eats noodles at his home.

They have all traveled around 12,000 kilometers to get this here.

Wait a minute! That is the same distance I have covered. But I didn’t ride from Southeast Asia to Europe. I am less than five-hundred kilometers from where I started a year ago but I have over 12,000 riding kilometers under my belt. Read More